Why does the author, Langston Hughes, use Mrs. Jones' four names when describing her?  

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In “Thank You, M’am,” Langston Hughes creates a strong, formidable female character in Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. Her full name emphasizes her larger than life stature and character traits. Both of the surnames, Jones and Washington, are recognized as being associated with slavery, and are widely used African-American last names.

Mrs. Jones is a common name that does nothing to enhance the reader’s image of the character who carries a “large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails,” who is able to lift a teenage boy by the collar of his shirt. Therefore, by using her full name, Langston Hughes identifies the woman as being representative of the strong, tenacious, single women that lived in Harlem and other predominately African-American communities. Mrs. Jones was secure enough with herself to walk home alone late at night.

After Roger fails to steal her purse, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, a proud, hardworking woman, drags him back to her small apartment. Instead of calling the police, she uses her intuition, experience, and finesse to teach him a life lesson. 

When I get through with you, sir, you are going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.

In her quiet but direct way, she teaches him the meaning of being trustworthy.